Some Cup Series drivers simply aren’t very good on road courses. There’s just no way to sugarcoat it. Others, meanwhile, tend to do some of their best work when required to turn both right and left. One driver who falls into the latter category is Kyle Busch, a two-time Sonoma winner who went to Victory Lane at the 1.99-mile road course in 2008 and 2015 with his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team. “Sonoma is a neat place,” said Busch, a Las Vegas native. “It’s a cool area to go up into Wine Country. I’ve always enjoyed road-course racing. Even when I was in Legends cars, I would enjoy going up there during the days that I raced there. Now that I’m on the Cup tour, it’s cool to go there every June. It’s a fun racetrack.”
Busch, a two-time Cup Series champion, believes preparation is key to this weekend’s race. “I think the biggest thing you do for Sonoma is watch some film, look at things from the past few years that have worked and some things that haven’t, and look at what has made you better there,” he said. “You always have to be mindful of what has made you good there and what you can improve on.” Other drivers who’ve enjoyed significant success at Sonoma include Busch’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. — also a two-time winner at the Northern California circuit — and defending race winner Kyle Larson.
Meanwhile, there are those like Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola — a perennial playoff contender — who admittedly don’t love racing at Sonoma, or any road course, for that matter. “Road-course racing has never been my favorite,” said a candid Almirola, who owns two top-10 finishes but no top fives in nine starts at Sonoma. Credit Almirola for at least trying to stay positive, though. “There is something about Sonoma that works better for us (than other road courses),” Almirola said. “It’s our best road course, statistically, and I feel like we have more confidence heading there than others in the past. It’s also a beautiful place to visit. It’s a must-see venue for the race fans.”